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What are the data protection implications of homeworking?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announce new guidance in light of coronavirus.

The ICO is providing new guidance to organisations regarding data protection and coronavirus, which can be accessed here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-and-coronavirus/

The ICO has stated the following:

Data protection is not a barrier to increased and different types of homeworking. During the pandemic, staff may work from home more frequently than usual and they can use their own device or communications equipment. Data protection law doesn’t prevent that, but you’ll need to consider the same kinds of security measures for homeworking that you’d use in normal circumstances.”

Whether you work from home or in the office, you still need to comply with data protection laws. While you need to process personal data with the same care you use in the office, the home working environment throws up specific data protection concerns particularly in respect of data security. You should make sure you have a home working policy which deals with data protection and these data security issues.

 Organisations must ensure that, for staff who can work from home, their obligations in respect of processing personal data are clearly communicated. Organisations may already have a home working policy – if this is the case, then this should be reviewed to ensure it remains relevant and up-to-date for practices during this pandemic.

Related FAQs

Can you require an employee to tell their employer whether they have been tested for coronavirus/the results of that test?

Yes, this is very likely to amount to a reasonable management instruction which is put in place for public health reasons. Employers should make it clear to their employees that this is something they are required to do and that if they fail to do so this may lead to disciplinary action.

What type of bundle will be required by the COP for a remote hearing?

Physical bundles may not be regarded as safe for public health and there are obvious difficulties in providing them with the current restrictions in place. Electronic bundles should be provided in PDF format, preferably paginated, indexed and bookmarked. The bundles should only contain documents and authorities that are essential to the issues required to be decided at the remote hearing and should be filed with the court by email.

Preparing for April 2021 – what do you need to do?
  • Audit
    • Identify your off-payroll contractors
    • Determine the status of off-payroll contractors
      • CEST – HMRC employment status checker for tax purposes
  • Communication – liaise with affected workforce
  • Contracts – get them compliant
  • Consider the Ward Hadaway toolkit
Can I dismiss an employee if they refuse to have the vaccine?

See above FAQ about whether you can demand that your employee has the vaccine.

Dismissal for failing to follow a reasonable instruction would be a possibility but it should be the last resort.

First you will need to be able to show that you have reasonable grounds for insisting that they have the vaccine. You will then need to demonstrate that you have taken into consideration the reasons why the employee has refused and why they are not considered reasonable. Before taking a decision to dismiss you should look at alternatives such as other duties/other roles.

I lease commercial premises. Can my landlord forfeit my lease?

As part of the Coronavirus Bill there is some good news for tenants in so far as it included the following:

  • All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland missing rent payments are to benefit from a government ban on forfeiture of their lease.
  • Landlords then will be prevented from terminating leases and “evicting” commercial tenants.
  • The above provisions rules will apply not only to principal rent, but to “any sum a tenant is required to pay”, leaving the burden of supplying services and insuring the premises on landlords. The bill will last until 30 June 2020, with an option for the government to extend this deadline.

Whist this is helpful to any Tenant planning not to pay rent or other payments due under their lease insofar as they will not suffer forfeiture and be evicted, it should be noted that the contractual obligation to continue paying rent and all other costs due under the lease remains and Landlords will still be able to take action to recover any payments due under the lease that are in arrears.